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At a special signing ceremony at Michigan State University, President Barack Obama signed into law the bipartisan 2014 Farm Bill, which was vigorously applauded by the industry's two leading produce trade associations.
The signing ends a three-year effort by the trade groups and specialty crop allies to approve a new five-year Farm Bill, which was passed earlier this month by the House and Senate and which includes an overall increase in investment of 55 percent over 2008 funding levels in critical produce industry initiatives and programs, including: the State Block Grant Program; Specialty Crops Research Initiative; a new fruit and vegetable incentive grant program for SNAP recipients; and the pest and disease prevention program. The bill also maintains funding for the Market Access Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which United helped to spearhead in Congress more than 10 years ago to provide fresh produce snacks in schools.
Robert Guenther, SVP of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, attended the ceremony along with administration officials, lawmakers and other agricultural industry representatives. “This Farm Bill makes landmark investments in the competitiveness of the produce industry and continues support for increasing access to fresh fruit and vegetables in our nation’s schools,” said Guenther, noting the great honor it was to attend “the bill’s signing and to participate in this event to mark the importance of American agriculture and our industry.”
Solid Win for Produce Industry
Tom Stenzel, president/CEO of United Fresh, concurred. “The 2014 farm bill is nothing less than a solid win for fresh produce on several fronts, including research, market promotion, pest and disease programs and nutrition initiatives.” Stenzel further noted United’s appreciation for “the steady leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Agriculture Committee in getting the Farm Bill passed. And our thanks also go to United Fresh members and other industry leaders who’ve walked the halls of Congress, made phone calls, supported candidates and otherwise made their voices heard to their lawmakers.”
The Produce Marketing Association’s CEO Bryan Silbermann further commended Congress’ passage of the farm bill “and applauds their attention to the needs of specialty crops throughout the bill. This success would not have been a reality without the leadership of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman, who continued the breakthroughs for specialty crops made in the 2008 farm bill, but in a far more difficult budgetary environment.”
Silbermann also expressed thanks to Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member; Rep. Frank Lucas (Okla.); House Agriculture Committee chairman; and Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), House Agriculture Committee ranking member; as well as to the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which he said “deserves recognition for their advocacy of programs targeted to the needs of produce and other specialty crops.”
'Not Your Father’s Farm Bill'
Sen. Stabenow, the bill’s author and host of the bill signing event, said: “This is not your father’s Farm Bill. It’s a new direction for American agriculture policy. Major reforms will be implemented and direct payments will finally come to an end. The bill supports the transition Americans are already making to a healthier, more locally based food system. This is also one of the largest investments in land and water conservation we’ve made in many years.”
Stabenow also noted protections afforded in the bill for food assistance for families in need of support, while finding savings solely by focusing on fraud and misuse.
“This bill truly touches every American – from the food we eat, to the air we breathe and the water we drink,” she said, noting that the journey to the present was “a long road with many challenges. I’m very proud that we maintained steadfast bipartisanship throughout this process. In the end, Congress came together to support 16 million American jobs, save taxpayers billions and implement the most significant reforms to agriculture programs in decades.”
More information about provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill can be found on United’s website.